In The Beginning

The original Big Brother cast, 2000.

I didn’t think the original US Big Brother was all that bad, really.  The only problem it had is that we had nothing to compare it to yet.

The first time I ever heard of Big Brother was when I read an article about it in the Charlotte Observer in December of 1999.  Back then, I was on the maintenance crew at a Wal-Mart in the southeast part of Charlotte, North Carolina.  The Netherlands hosted the first worldwide BB in the fall of 1999, and the show was about to conclude after 106 days on the air, with Bart Spring in ‘t Veld winning.  I remember thinking what a strange concept it was.  People living somewhat normal lives for all of one country to see?  It reminded me of that Albert Brooks movie 20 years earlier, Real Life.

My other thought was that with all the game shows starting in Europe and coming to the US, we’d probably get our own version of this show.

If memory serves, the first ever episode on July 5, 2000 is still the highest rated ever.  Remarkable that a summer show has been on now for just over 12 years, and the first show is still the highest rated show in its history, isn’t it?  It had the original Survivor as a lead-in, which again is ironic because from BB2 onward, it basically used Survivor’s structure as it’s own.

The show had one very serious problem, the very same problem The Glass House is now experiencing.  We here in the United States tend to be more conservative and buttoned down about things when it comes down to it.  Look at our culture compared to Europe’s.  Europe widely accepted a more liberal approach to social issues such as gay rights and public nudity sooner than America did.  So, the more interesting and controversial a contestant was, the more likely that person was to be banished.

BB1 had its own terminology when it came to eliminating houseguests, as opposed to the proceeding 13 seasons.  There was no Head of Household, so each HG had to select two other HGs to be marked for banishment.  If there was a three-way or greater tie for first, or any multiple way tie for second, then all those tied went up.  In the fourth nominating round, six of the seven houseguests left were eligible to be banished when there was a five-way tie for second place.

Even back then, the show was fudging with the background of the houseguests.  Take Will “Mega” Collins for instance.  He was a very different character than the rest of the bunch.  Nothing timid about that guy at all.  So when he’s banished from the house, Julie Chen makes this shocking revelation to America that he’s a Black Panther.  You could almost hear America taking in a deep breath.

Then there was the walkout that almost was.

Another thing lost about BB1 (BB2 for that matter) is that they were a more savvy and smart bunch.  The jolly Chickenman, George Boswell, almost led a walkout on two different occasions, the second occasion in early August of 2000 a much more serious matter.  The houseguests didn’t seem what they liked what they were being forced to do, and thought the rules were too restrictive.  That also wound up changing as the seasons progressed.

And after 88 days of this, Eddie McGee wound up being the winner of a three-way vote to determine the first champion.  The ratings had dropped like a rock as the season progressed, and I wondered that Friday night in late September if Big Brother was going to be a one-and-done deal.

History would prove me wrong.


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